Discovering Why I Have Lost My Hearing–Stage 1

A retracted ear drum is often caused by the Eustachian Tube to the throat being closed. This is often caused by an upper respiratory infection or chronic allergies. I went to the doctor last Friday to get a referral to a hearing specialist because of my current realization that I have lost some hearing and it is now affecting my life negatively (See Previous Post–What Did You Say?).

I did not expect that my primary physician would see or discover anything on his own before even giving me a referral.

After listening to my complaints, he looked into my ears. He noticed that my left one had so much wax in it, he couldn’t even see my eardrum. So initially we thought, maybe it was just that.

I was hopeful. I had this happen before. I remember about 8 years ago, needing to get that same ear, irrigated because I could not get water out of it from swimming. My doctor then noticed the same issue. After irrigating it out with warm water and hydrogen peroxide, she said it looked like my canal was shaped funny. She said she had a hard time even seeing in because of the way it was shaped, which explained why my body had a hard time getting rid of the wax.

And I remember having a similar issue about 13 or 14 years ago when I was in college. I had some ear pain though. Went to the doctor. He looked in and saw all this wax. After he removed some wax he looked at my ear drum and said, “Wow. Did you have a lot of ear infections when you were a kid? You ear drum is really scarred.”

I asked my mom.

She said yes.

When a hand is pressed on a drum, it doesn't vibrate well. Same with a retracted eardrum. So for the 3rd time in 13 years, I had my ear flushed out. But this time, the doctor saw something different. He looked in and did not notice a scarred ear drum. He didn’t see an ear drum at all. Mine was “retracted.” That’s a medical term meaning that it was sucked up into my head. He said that could explain why I was struggling with my hearing. That a retracted ear drum acts like a hand pressed on a drum. The drum cannot vibrate well.

So I asked my next question—why is my ear drum retracted? I guess there are a number of possible causes. 

1. Allergies. Which I do have. Between dust and cats and pollen, I often am sneezing. I’m not stuffed up all the time, like my husband. But I’ll go into a room and something will bother my nose and next thing I know, I’m drippy and sneezing. Then it will go away a little while later. He said that consistent allergies can lead the tube from my nose to my ear to close up, preventing my ear from distributing pressure equally on both sides of my ear drum. The pressure in my head can’t come out my nose if the tube closes up and so sucks my ear drum in. I read in an internet article that loud music can cause the tube to close up too. I’ve definitely had my fair share of that in my past.

Possible Solution-Steroidal Nose Spray. I’ve got to spray it in my nose once a day and after a few days, its supposed to open up that tube and hopefully pop my eardrum back out. He said it would take about 5 days to start working. I’m on day 4 today and haven’t noticed anything. What I did notice is that the spray did not hurt my right nostril–shot up just fine. My breathing on that nostril was perfect too. I noticed my left nostril hurt when I sprayed it. And I noticed it felt full and while I could breath out of it, definitely could not breath as well. So maybe there is something to this.

He said it could also explain why I have wax build up in the ear too. My ear may be making more wax to protect itself. I did notice that since he took out the wax, my ear actually hurts now. I now have learned that ear pain is a common side effect of a retracted ear drum. The wax somehow helped that. So now I have this full sensation. And pain.

But I suspect maybe there is something more.

Because if it is just the ear drum on my left ear, why do I struggle to also hear out of right ear? I mean, I hear better out of that ear, but I still struggled to hear my voice mail using my right ear today while in class when there was just regular background noise from two people having a conversation near by.

So unless one ear drum tube issue can cause issues in both ears, I suspect this ear drum problem is exasperating another problem I may have.

But the doctor told me to use the spray and see if it helps. If not, I’ll come in and take an auditory test. And then he will refer me to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor to take the next steps.

I’m hopeful that this spray will help. I do not want a hearing aid.

And my biggest fear is that my hearing will slowly get worse. And that one day I will be completely deaf. It makes me want to cry when I think of that. I need to stop as I’m getting teary eyed this moment even writing those words. I don’t want to stop hearing the sound of my children’s voices. Of my husband’s thoughts. Of music. Of birds or the ocean. And how would I even teach anymore? I remember last year, I had a conversation with our ASL teacher on campus. She was once an engineer. Then lost hearing after a water skiing accident. Had to change her career. Learn ASL. She can’t hear anything anymore. And her own brother won’t learn ASL so he can speak to her because it would “just” be her he would need to learn it for. On the bright side, she now has a new career as an ASL teacher. But it was a complete career change that took time and a scary road.

In the end, I have to fight the WORRIER inside of me and remind myself that I am a WARRIOR. That with God’s grace and purpose for my life, he will not let me be abandoned or alone in the silence. I can problem solve. I can pray. I can fight this. I will be ok. 

Theresa means Reaper, but I think my name should mean Warrior.Thank God he gave me a love for the written word over the spoken. If the sound goes out, I’ll still be able to see and read.

I pray it doesn’t. But if that is God’s plan for my sanctification, I need to trust that it is for my good. That in the silence, maybe he will help me hear what I couldn’t hear in all the noise before.

Until then, here’s to these nasal drops.

What Did You Say?

It was about a year ago,  that I started to wonder if I had a hearing problem or just a listening problem.

“Why did you put the lunchbox on top of the refrigerator? I told you specifically not to put anything up there” My husband said with frustration.

“I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.” I said.

“Maybe you just weren’t listening. I was in the living room, just 10 feet away.”

***

I'm losing my hearing. I have to ask people to repeat themselves . Then another time…

“THERESA!!!!”

“What? What? Why are you screaming?”

“I’ve called your name three times already. Didn’t you hear me??”

“No. No I didn’t hear you.”

“There’s no way you couldn’t hear me. I was yelling from the kitchen. Our house isn’t that big.”

***

At first I thought my husband just didn’t understand how sound worked. I mean, if the sink is running and the tv is on, isn’t it normal not to hear him ask me something? 

Then one night we were at a party–There was lots of background noise with people chatting and eating and laughing around the room. I was in a circle with a few friends all within comfortable distance from one another. One person was talking and the rest in the circle were listening and nodding their heads at moments, laughing at others. I could hear that noise was coming out of her mouth. But I couldn’t piece together the sounds in order to construct the words themselves and place them in order in my head so that I understood the meaning or the message. I just stood there quietly, not participating in the conversation other than standing there.

I felt so alone. Everyone enjoying themselves. And I had no one I could talk to.

Oh my gosh, I realized, I have a hearing problem.

But it’s not really a hearing problem so bad that I need a hearing aid, right? I can hear people just fine.

  • When they are face to face with me.
  • And they don’t have a really low voice.
  • Or mumble.
  • Or talk too fast.
  • Or are whispering.
  • Or are leaving a message on my voicemail.
  • Or speaking with background noise around.

Often times, if I’m talking with them on the phone, I don’t hear all their words and so awkwardly respond with, “right.” It seems to satisfy most people.

Why don’t I say, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you”? I’m afraid to be rude I guess. I think I’ve done it in the past and only made the person frustrated.

“I’m sorry can you say that again?”

“I’m sorry I still didn’t hear you, can you say it one more time?” And then I hear a tone in their voice that suggest irritation and I still can’t figure out what they are saying. So I stop asking.

People can’t quite get that I don’t mean just say it again exactly the way you said it before—I mean to say it more articulately, more slowly, at a higher pitch. Let me see your facial expressions. Let me see your body language. So I can figure it out. Or guess what you are saying. I’ll hear a word hear and a phrase there. So I often make inferences on what is in between. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong. I can usually tell when I’m wrong when I respond to what I think they said, and they respond with tones of perplexity.

No wonder I text way more often than call people and I rarely answer my phone. Just text, I’ve been saying for so long without really knowing why. No wonder the last couple of months–I’ve been struggling to hear my voice mail. I kept thinking it was my phone. I can’t hear anyone if there’s any background noise. I can hear that someone is talking, but I can’t make out the words.

***

I don’t want a hearing aid.

I’m angry at myself for going to those loud parties, raves, and concerts when I was younger. But then I wonder if it was all those ear infections I had as a kid. What is the cause?

I’ve been putting off seeing a doctor.

I ‘ve assumed that my husband can just put up with it. I can just stick my head out from the kitchen when I hear his voice but can’t put the words together and say, “What did you say?” Or if I ask him a yes or no questions and he responds with “yeah.”

“What?”

I said, “yeah.”

“Yes?”

“Yes!”

“Oh honey, please don’t say, “yeah” when you mean “yes” because I can’t tell the difference between your “yeah’s” and “no’s.” I’m waiting to hear the “s” sound so I know your answer.

But last weekend, I realized–this was going to affect more than just my husband and my social life at parties. 

I was writing at the kitchen table during nap time, and my husband was near by on the living room couch. The dishwasher was running and the washing machine in the garage was rumbling too.

“you know the baby is crying, right?”

“no I didn’t hear her.”

“You need to go to the hearing doctor. We don’t need our children to die in the backroom choking on something so you don’t to feel silly wearing a hearing aid.”

Reality check.

Some may say it was harsh. But my husband knows me. If he’s too nice when I’m stubborn, I won’t change. I haven’t. This has been a problem for a while. And there was truth in what he said. Why wasn’t I going to get this solved? It’s because I don’t want a hearing aid. I don’t want that to be part of my description. That wasn’t what I had seen in my plan for my life.

Hearing aids are ugly. They are on deaf people and old people. I am neither, I thought.

“I dated a girl with a hearing aid once,” my husband said last night with a smile after I told him I couldn’t hear a woman in class who was speaking to me during break because there was too much background noise.

I think that is what I needed to hear. I think deep down, I was wondering–Will you still love me with a hearing aid? Will you still think I’m pretty with a hearing aid?  I think he was telling me the answer to my unasked question– yes.

So I called the Doctor and had my first appointment on Friday. More on those details in my next blog.